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KZN land claim a wild success

Written by: Hlengiwe Ngobese

With support from KZN Wildlife and other conservation entities,a group of land claimants are now the proud owners of a 12 000-hectare game reserve in the heart of Zululand.

Successful land claim by the KwaGumbi Community led to the establishment of the Somkhanda private game reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Situated in Mkhuze, it is named after Somkhanda Gumbi, the great grandfather of Inkosi Zeblon Gumbi.

The land was forcibly taken in 1960, resulting in 250 people losing their homes. The community’s Inkosi Gumbi said people were relocated elsewhere, with some going as far as the uMkhanyakude District.

“In 2003, we registered our claim with the Land Commission and two years later, our land was returned to us. It took us eight years to decide what we were going to do with the land as some of us wanted it to be a farm, while others were insisting on maintaining it as a game reserve,” he said.

 “In 2013, we partnered with the Wildlands Conservation Trust which helped us to secure grant funding to upgrade fencing and other infrastructure.”

The funding also allowed community members to be trained in management, tourism and hospitality.

Wildlands is still responsible for the day-to-day running of the game reserve, but suitable community members are being trained to take over this function in the future

Gumbi said the game reserve has provided 40 employment opportunities for community members. 

“These young people were hired after they had been trained as field rangers and in hospitality services,” he said.

The reserve is home to the big five and also has African wild dog, spotted and brown hyena, giraffe, zebra, kudu, nyala, blue wildebeest, impala, bush pigs and warthogs, as well as some rarer species such as jackals, honey badger and caracals. There are also more than 230 bird species.

A variety of accommodation options is available, as well as activities that give visitors insight into contemporary Zulu culture. An annual ceremony is held, to which amakhosi from neighbouring countries are invited.